After days of heavy snow which saw the riders storm chasing through the trees of Laax, the sun shone through for the slopestyle finals of the 2015 Burton European Open. As the qualifying rounds for both men and women had been cancelled due to low vis and speed problems with the course, all 32 men and 16 women went through for a two run final. There hadn’t been much time for practice, but the conditions were the same for everyone.
Both events brought excitement and rivalries that carried on to the end, but it was the women’s event that kicked off first. After Cheryl Maas set the bar with her first run, Japanese Miyabi Onitsuka opened her kicker line with a cab 900, really raising the bar for women’s slopestyle. Unfortunately she couldn’t stick a full run, but it was a great showing that gives hope for the future.
At the end of proceedings though, it was all about the battle between the final two riders on the start sheet: Jamie Anderson and Christy Prior. We’ve been tipping our hats to the latter to take the slopestyle crown for a while now, and after she put down an incredible rail section that saw a frontside 540 bonk over the Tiki bar into a sky-high cab 180 off the spine transfer it was clear to see that she’s changed up a gear coming into this season. Even an impeccably stylish run from Jamie Anderson couldn’t match the Pior power: women’s slopestyle just levelled up.
The packed men’s finals saw more of the same exciting action, though more riders seemed to be struggling with speed on the final kickers than in the ladies’. Ryan Stassel and Nick Baden took advantage and used the opportunity to showcase some ‘style’ runs, though they weren’t very highly scored. Still, it was great to see slopestyle being brought back from the uber-tech mute grabs, however slightly.
Just like at the X Games a couple of weeks ago, the final podium was made up of a couple of Norwegians and a Canadian. Torstein Horgmo took the bronze medal and a fistful of WST points with a miller flipping, buttery top section before screaming into a bolts perfect cab 1080, switch back 1260 and frontside double cork.
Sitting in tenth after the first run, Stale Sandbech had a lot of work to do, especially if he was to put his debatable X Games’ silver to bed, but as he dropped in there wasn’t a second’s doubt that this wasn’t his day. He made the best use out of the halfpipe cut between the two butter pads on the Mini feature, sending a double crippler deep into the run in for the kicker section, possibly the raddest hit of the whole day. Three perfect kicker hits comprised entirely of flatspins – backside 1260, cab 1260 and a front 1080 that looked so slow it could’ve been a 720 – landed him a total of 91.4, almost a whole ten points clear of Mark McMorris‘ first run.
After a flawless top section, McMorris tried to bring out the backside triple cork on his second kicker hit, but couldn’t quite stick it. Still, he had enough speed to send a textbook method off the last booter for the fans and still was able to hold on the second place from his first run. It looks like there might be a proper rivalry in slopestyle again, albeit a friendly one, all we can do is hope that the majority of riders stick to the WST this time around to give it some credit. Bring on tomorrow’s halfpipe!